In every multi-cat household, there’s always one cat that is immune to the effects of catnip. However, around 70% of cats respond to catnip, how do we cater to the other around 30% of cats feeling shut out from the party?
Fortunately, there is another way they can experience a similar frenzy of ecstasy for cats with a bad case of FOMO. Tartarian honeysuckle wood may possibly be your cat’s happy pill that it was missing out on all along.
Why providing olfactory enrichment for your cats is vital
From clicker training, food puzzle games, providing vertical spaces to ‘perch,’ hidey holes to ‘cave’, these cat enrichment activities and platforms allow our cats to express
their natural behaviors to feel secure, decrease the tension and preserve harmony which is important to their overall mental and physical well-being.
But let us explore what scents mean in a cat’s world. A cat’s olfactory system is so highly developed and complex that scent is at the forefront of the way in which cats communicate with each other, as well as with us. We all know the familiar Flehman response when a cat makes a derpy face, often smelling scents us humans cannot.
Cats usually have about 200 million scent receptors in comparison to human beings who only have 5 million of them. Therefore, cats take in a number of stimuli on any given day, and it would be a disgrace to ignore this complex bundle of feline olfactory talent. Cats’ noses are powerhouses of scent receptors and hence, it’s crucial to come up with stimulating scents that cats would normally encounter in their natural habitat outdoors.
Winter is a time when I like to bring the outdoors indoors in the form of natural objects such as vine wreaths, catnip stems, and setting up an indoor cat salad bar. I’m adding honeysuckle wood pieces to that list, too.
Wait… what? Honeysuckle for cat enrichment? But where can I get it from?
What exactly is Tartarian Honeysuckle?
“Another recreational herb for my cats to drool over? Bring it on!”
The Lady Cat (aka. me)
Out of over 25 species of honeysuckle, Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera Tartarica) is the only species that seems to have an entrancing effect on cats. This bushy shrub was introduced to North America as an ornamental and can grow up to 10 feet tall. When I learned about its catnip-like effects on cats a few years ago, I thought it would be perfect to grow next to our catio.
“Another recreational herb for my cats to drool over? Bring it on!” I thought. Therefore, when I was searching for a way to provide the ultimate cat enrichment lifestyle for my cats, I started my search to find honeysuckle.
I started first by visiting my local garden centers asking about Lonicera Tartarica but to no avail. In my region, it’s considered an invasive species so it’s not encouraged to plant this in one’s backyard. There was a huge excess of other honeysuckle species other than the one I wanted, or rather the one my cats needed in their lives for the moment!
Cat House Inc. and the honeysuckle story
Cat House Inc. is a company based in Calgary, Canada and has been serving the cat-loving community in Calgary and beyond since 1991 with its wide selection of practical and whimsical cat products, including honeysuckle wood. Its owners are Joanne and Henry Wegiel who established honeysuckle wood as a secure alternative to catnip since 1991.
In their family’s backyard, Joanne noticed how their cats would use the shrub as a scratching post. But the honeysuckle-loving cats’ antics didn’t stop there.
When it was pruning time, the cats would exhibit behaviors similar to a catnip high, such as cheek rubbing, hugging, flopping, and rolling over, licking and drooling, clearly attracted to some intoxicating scent from the honeysuckle wood.
It made perfect sense to bring this wonderful honeysuckle sensory experience to other cats too, and they sold tens of thousands of pieces to happy customers over the years.
Joanne Wegiel was delighted that I wanted to learn more about this wood and kindly included extra pieces in my package to try out on my own cats and others.
My colleague’s kitty Gou Gou enjoying a Slice of honeysuckle timber
THE CAT HOUSE INC. was Canada’s largest cat specialty retail store for over 24 years until it was sadly destroyed by fire in 2015. But fortunately for us cat lovers, they are still in operation selling exclusively online and specializing in their high-quality honeysuckle wood products.
You can choose from honeysuckle wood slices, sticks, larger honeysuckle posts, wood slabs, and pouches for your cats to explore and discover their preferred honeysuckle ‘groove.’
Joanne and Henry are very passionate about animal welfare and they do believe in giving back to their community, help and support a number of Calgary-based animal rescue associations.
They can be proud, too, that their Tartarian honeysuckle contributed to a recent study carried out on 100 domestic cats to observe their responses to the compounds identified in honeysuckle, silver vine, valerian root, and catnip.
Scientific Research on Honeysuckle for Cat Enrichment
Back in 2017, a scientific study headed by microbiologist, Dr. Sebastian Boll Ph.D. who lives in San Antonio, Texas, was devoted to a comparison of the responsiveness of domestic cats to catnip and its alternatives such as Tartarian honeysuckle, Valerian root, and Silver Vine.
The study was under the title: “Responsiveness of cats (Felidae) to silver vine (Actinidia polygama), Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and catnip (Nepeta cataria)”. However, it’s the first-ever scientific research that was held on Tartarian honeysuckle and Valerian and published in the BMC Veterinary Research Journal.
For me, I always get hyped about cat-related scientific studies that are done to aid cats or promote cats as having distinct needs within a home environment. Studies of this kind are very crucial, because they naturally bring light to cat environment enrichment as a vital component of cat guardianship, and not just something frivolous or secondary.
Pssst... Ollie, don’t inform others about this!
Shelter Cats Can Benefit from Honeysuckle too
The study concludes that Tartarian Honeysuckle is indeed a wonderful alternative for cats that do not respond to catnip.
In conclusion, one of the most interesting remarks was that the scared or shy cats responded as often and as intensely to the various plant materials as the affectionate or friendly cats did.
This bodes well for those wallflower cats in shelters that might largely benefit from a little honeysuckle ‘aromatherapy’ to bring them out of their shells and thus increasing their chances of being adopted by other people.
How do Cats React to Tartarian Honeysuckle?
The first thing I noticed about our cats’ reaction to honeysuckle was that they exhibit the same trance-like motions they would generally experience with catnip. Cats roll their heads, lick the wood, rub their cheeks on it and do the typical catnip writhing-like-a-snake dance.
One difference though, is that the cats who normally become a little over-zealous on catnip, tend to be more zoned out and mellow on honeysuckle.
Catnip tends to turn our Mr. Jack into a seamy drunk, he goes around smacking Scout, his pals and they end up in a combat. He usually needs to be given his catnip on the one side of the room away from Scout, and definitely not next to each other.
Honeysuckle, on the other hand, makes him calm and ‘zoned-out’, a much more ‘Zen’ experience for all involved.
How to give Honeysuckle to your cat
The surprise bucket
Cats usually like to rummage through their basket of toys and choose their favorites. You can surprise them with a bucket of honeysuckle slices instead.
The scratching article
This way is fun for your kitty to hug and scratch a bigger piece of honeysuckle wood.
Sometimes a communal bucket display is not ideal with multiple cats and your cat might prefer to party by himself in his little corner. That’s okay too.
Mix it up!
The mixed pouches of honeysuckle and catnip will definitely give your cat double the buzz! I recommend one for each cat to avoid scuffles. Or two, if you’re Charlie!
Piece of advice:
You can sand or scrape the exposed inner wood surface to prolong the effect of your honeysuckle wood. If the wood appears to have lost its scent (which can happen when it’s exposed to other smells over time) you can revive the scent by wetting it.
We keep our honeysuckle sticks in a sealed bucket so the cats see it as a new treat each time.
Other types of cats such as big cats and other wild cats, also react positively to honeysuckle. You can notice Jua the serval at the Big Cat Sanctuary enjoying her new enrichment toy, a piece of honeysuckle wood.
That is to say, if your cat is still thinking “Some cats have all the luck” don’t leave her out in the cold. You can also tickle your cat’s funny bone and get a few honeysuckle sticks for her to drool over and join the party.
You can purchase any of the honeysuckle products listed and pictured above directly from The Cat House Inc.